A digital bill of rights

Written By: - Date published: 2:27 pm, March 10th, 2014 - 10 comments
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Bill of Rights

David Cunliffe announced yesterday Labour’s intention to introduce a digital bill of rights which will establish four basic rights for people. There were four aspects mentioned:

  • Guaranteed access to the internet by New Zealand citizens.
  • The right to protection from mass surveillance and the digital equivalent of warrantless phone tapping.
  • Restrictions on the onselling of personal digital information.
  • Guaranteeing freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion while at the same time outlawing hate speech.

Guaranteed access is a welcome proposal but is perhaps more of a logistical issue rather than a legal issue.  My local library has free internet access through workstations as well as wifi available and ensuring that all local authorities provide similar access is one way to ensure everyone can access the Internet.  This particular version of the right is well worth guaranteeing.

The right to protection from mass surveillance is long overdue.  I expect the GCSB will not be in favour …

Restricting onselling of personal digital information is something that is long overdue.

Guaranteeing freedom of expression while preventing hate speech is potentially the most difficult issue.  The inability to stop access to comments stored overseas will always be an issue although if a local blogger who claims popularity by running continuous click bait interspersed with the odd pit of National Research sourced scandal steps way out of line then there should be some remedy.

Overall I believe that this policy will be something that will meet with general approval.  And it is interesting to see what Kim Dotcom and the Internet Party think of it.

10 comments on “A digital bill of rights”

  1. Disraeli Gladstone 1


    “It would also guarantee freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion, while still outlawing hate speech.”

    “This sounds good – but its actually an erosion compared to what we have at present. Those freedoms, whether offline or on, are currently protected by the BORA. But hate speech isn’t outlawed in practical terms (there is a crime of inciting racial disharmony, but there was only a single prosecution under the 1971 Act, and the consensus now is that the BORA has made it almost impossible to prosecute). So that “still” hides a massive crackdown on online expression. It may be expression we don’t like, that we find hateful and offensive, but that doesn’t justify outlawing it, any more than it justifies outlawing rickrolling. Which means the answer to Labour’s proposal has to be “no thanks”. Protect freedom of speech unambiguously according to BORA standards or piss off.”

    Exactly right.

    There’s actually a pretty good connection here to the TPP. The TPP Agreement is free trade that is actually creating more restrictions. Labour’s Digital Bill of Rights is restricting rights we already have.


    • mickysavage 1.1

      I don’t agree. There is no absolute right of freedom of speech. The BORA says that “[e]veryone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form” but it is subject to section 5 which states “the rights and freedoms contained in this Bill of Rights may be subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” There are various offences against extreme speech such as section 4 of the Summary Offences Act 1981 (offensive language), and misuse of a telephone and in particular use of profane, indecent, or obscene language with intent to offend.

      • Disraeli Gladstone 1.1.1

        I suppose it all comes down to how any potential legislation would be phrased. It’s workable. But I don’t think the exceptions to free speech are very commonly used (I may be wrong?) and re-legislating them in an online context sounds like it might open them up to abuse.

        If the legislation essentially goes “BORA’s position” that’s fine. But if they decide to actually include a new section on “hate speech” then I suspect that will go further than what we have currently.

  2. Aww 2

    This hasn’t been thought through properly. Firstly, some people are legally bared from accessing the internet (eg they have been caught trading objectionable images).

    There is a need to also specifiy when you have the right to access the internet – 2am in the morning?

    Also some people can’t access the internet from a free location such as a library due to mobility or confidentiality issues. And where I live in Wellington you only have limited access as only some sites are allowed. If you want to check your gmail you have to pay. So…you have the “right” to pay for internet access? Just as you do now?

    What about Work and Income who fight tooth and nail to avoid having internet included as part of a disability allowance? There is an expectation from Work and Income that the cost will be absorbed but core benefit rates haven’t risen to allow this and many dependent on benefits cannot afford smartphones to access free wifi.

    • karol 2.1

      In Auckland Libraries everyone can access the internet free of charge, either via library computers or wifi. Printing costs. Yes, lack of privacy is an issue. Rules about not displaying x rated material in a public space apply.

      But Cunliffe also mentioned “people’s wifi network” I’m not sure if this could be accessed anywhere? And costs of the hardware for accessing wifi looks like an issue to me.

  3. Guaranteeing freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion while at the same time outlawing hate speech.

    Or, more accurately, “Rejecting any guarantee of freedom of expression.” Fucking Labour, always with the “outlawing hate speech.” You could kind of give them a grudging admiration if they at least had the courage of their convictions, but no – they want to outlaw speech they don’t like while at the same time claiming to guarantee freedom of expression. Fuck that – come back when you’ve made your minds up.

    • McFlock 3.1

      Well, we have freedom of movement, but you’re not allowed to hit me.
      Why should you be allowed to tacitly or explicitly encourage other people to hit me?

  4. RedBaronCV 4

    Why just the onselling of digital information? Time all information came with a restirction about selling it or passing it on. Time for an opt in regime for the consumer not an opt out one (if you can find the clause).
    Main hates:
    -power companies telling me that to help with my credit raing they are passing all my payment details onto someone?? Ignores the fact that the bulk of NZ don’t have a mortage and that information will be sold.
    -google street view = online burglary scoping.
    -booking a ticket , clicking no emails and then getting emails for so called service satisfaction survey.
    – unlisted numbers getting marketing survey calls.
    – employment testing where the company hands over your address and email and then you have to sign away all rights to your information to the service provider.
    -insufficent retrictions on keeping CV’s etc, recruitment companies sold several times data in hands of who knows.
    – bank documents where the right to privacy is so embedded that it is not possible to say “yes” or “no” without triggering a refusal of service.

  5. Rich 5

    if a local blogger who claims popularity by running continuous click bait interspersed with the odd pit of National Research sourced scandal steps way out of line then there should be some remedy

    An increased sentence for revealing the identity of child rape victims might be the simplest solution. If he’d got five years inside rather than a $6k fine, that’d have put an end to his blogging.

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